Written by Tim Kershner
Noting that the Creator "implores us" to "open our mouths, judge righteously and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy," the United Church of Christ’s General Synod 2017 called on the various settings of the church to publicly address "the healing needs of adult survivors of child abuse."
The resolution reaffirms actions from previous Synods supporting child welfare and extends those actions to include support and advocacy of programs assisting adult survivors of child abuse.
"The United Church of Christ has long given voice to children who have suffered abuse and neglect," said the Rev. Sarah Frische-Mouri Hannigan of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference, who chaired the Synod Committee assigned to the resolution. "Too often adult survivors have entered into the offices of clergy looking for comfort and encouragement and have not found that."
"Adult survivors of child abuse and neglect are all around us--in our families, in our churches, in our communities and in this gathering," she said. "As children grow into adults, their wounds do not just go away. Additional care is needed."
These survivors "need to have their voices heard."
Two attempts to amend the resolution failed. One asked that specific materials and training be provided for survivors of abuse by clergy or church lay members. Another asked that "survivors" be referred to as "persons living in the aftermath of abuse." Both amendments failed as participants focused on the original intent of assisting adult survivors of abuse, acknowledging that future Synod actions could follow.
"By adopting this resolution," Hannigan said, "the UCC will give witness to the voices of survivors who are not yet ready to disclose, or who do yet feel comfortable sharing their stories, but nevertheless need safe spaces."
According to Hannigan, the United Church of Christ is the first national organization, religious or secular, endorsing such an action.
Tim Kershner, celebrating his 13th Synod as a newsroom volunteer, is associate vice president of marketing & communication at Centenary College of Louisiana.